We recently described Fang Island’s Major as a straight up, sometimes sideways, slice of proper, sweet, heart on sleeve, riff-laden pop and rock – which roughly translated means we love the shit out of it. This group know their way around a good song, they fire riffs off like they’re going out of fashion, drop melodies for fun and rock the fuck out whenever the mood might take them. It was clearly time to track one of the three-piece down – thankfully guitarist Jason Bartell stepped up and provided the answers.
Bowlegs: This album has more vocals. Was it liberating to give a little more narrative to your music? Did you have more to say or was it more a case of what seemed right for these particular songs?
Jason: A little of both I would say, in both cases. It has been liberating to have more lyrics, but also kind of scary, and I definitely try to follow what the song seems to be demanding. Riffs like the rhythm hook in Sisterly just beg for lyrics and vocals, so I followed that need. I had been kicking that riff around for a good year before finding the right vocal hook for it.
Bowlegs: While writing and recording do you all instinctively know when a song is working or do corners occasionally have to be fought? Were any songs won or lost while recording Major?
Jason: I think we all kind of instinctively know when a song is working in Fang Island, it’s usually when a riff or idea makes us laugh and smile. When I walk around singing fake lyrics to a silly riff I know we’re on the right track. Theres not too much fighting in this band ha.
Bowlegs: Are any of the songs standing out as road favorites yet? Asunder sounds like it could be a bit of a blast played out to a crowd!
Jason: Asunder is definitely a live favorite of mine, I think the energy translates really well to a live show. Seek it Out has been really fun too, it has a heavy bounce to it.
Bowlegs: Was there any specific point when it all clicked with Fang Island and you knew you were onto something special? If so, what and when might that have happened?
Jason: For me it was literally a single moment, I’ll never forget it because I’ve never felt it before or since. Chris (along with Pete and Phil – the other founding members) had finished the rough recording of the first 4 Fang Island songs that they had made for a college course they had invented. I was doing the same course, making a record with my brother, it was a dark and brooding Mad Max concept album. Anyway we were having a listening party and chris showed me the Fang songs and it was like a fire igniting in my mind, I saw the path laid out in front of us. It instantly made sense to me, and it felt important. I desperately wanted to start playing with them but I never told them, luckily they asked me to join a few days later. I never felt like I had a voice on guitar until that point…
Bowlegs: The videos you made with Carlos Perez (Daisy and Life Coach) are pretty magnificent and the Kindergarten teaser seems to promise more of the same. What bought you together and what can we expect in the future?
Jason: Carlos is a friend and he was a blast to work with. We just finished a video for Sisterly which was directed by Behn Fannin, he’s done a lot of work with Sargent House, our label, he’s a rad dude. Hopefully we’ll be making a bunch more!
Bowlegs: Imagine if you will that you are curating the Fang Island Festival. What bands or artists, not just musical, might we see and why? Who would be there that you think deserves more exposure than they get right now?
Jason: Theres a band we’re buddies with called Call of the Wild in Brooklyn, I don’t use this term too often but they are truly bad ass. Them and our buddies Chat Logs, a spooky noise-ska band. there would be beer and Twix bars everywhere.
Bowlegs: You’ve been progressively moving forward and evolving for a good few years now. Do you have any sort of masterplan or do you let things happen as they will? That said, what can we expect from Fang island in the future?
Jason: Nobody knows such things! we are all happy to be alive, we understand more and less every day
Bowlegs: Do you have any tours lined up outside the U.S.? If so where? If not why? Do you have a wish list of places you’d like to see and experience?
Jason: We’ll be in Europe in November and December, we’re pumped! Hopefully Australia and Japan after that.
-Interview by Steve Manser-Knight-